Welcome to the finest Philadelphia sports blog ran from within Temple University. This blog's focus is local sports, including Temple sports as well as news and opinions regarding the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lee's Decision Not About Money

PBR - How many times have you seen it? A highly competitive offseason battle for the market’s top pitching arm that ultimately ends with the New York Yankees overpowering the other teams involved with their unchallengeable payroll and aggressiveness. It’s what makes so many people hate the Yankees and what has created their evil empire. That’s what makes the Cliff Lee deal so special. 

Based on the reported contract he will sign with the Phillies, Lee will have turned down approximately $30 million to play in Philadelphia over New York. You just don’t see that anymore. Regardless of all the reports from last December when the Phillies said they couldn’t resign Lee because of the money he was reportedly expecting, regardless of the mindset that the Yankees and Texas Rangers had going into free agency that they each had to pay the maximum price; it seems as though this is one of those rare occurrences where money simply wasn't a deciding factor.

Lee first came to Philadelphia in 2009 via a trade with Cleveland. He established an excellent rapport with his teammates and the organization during the organization's run and finished the postseason 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA. 

When the organization traded him to Seattle last December to make room for Roy Halladay he was stunned.

“I was devastated,” Lee said. “I wanted to spend the rest of my career there.”

Despite the fact that Lee pitched for two different teams in 2010, including a Texas club that he led to the World Series, his heart was always in Philadelphia.

Lee apparently was willing to stay in Texas if the Rangers accepted the terms of a deal that he and his agent proposed to them that included a contract of seven years. However, the Rangers organization did not feel comfortable signing Lee for a seven-year tenure; the most substantial offer they made him was six years, $138 million.

"In this instance, it was simply a matter of us saying yes," Rangers managing general partner Chuck Greenberg said. "But it would have been us saying yes on terms we weren't comfortable with. This wasn't about Cliff not coming to Texas. He was willing to remain a Ranger, but it was on terms we felt went beyond the aggressive parameters we were operating under. Had we been willing to go beyond the parameters we were willing to go, he'd be here. We needed to act aggressively, but responsibly and we did so."

So while it is true that Lee was willing to stay in Texas if the price was right, it’s obvious that his desire to come back to Philadelphia trumped all other circumstances. 

"In the back of our minds, thinking that experience was something that was going to be meaningful to him,” Greenberg said. “We realized the Phillies had made a positive impression on him."

It is also obvious that Lee just flat-out did not want to go to New York. 

Reports earlier in the free agency season that Yankees’ fans poured beer on Lee’s wife during a Rangers/Yankees game last season likely had an impact on him.

Lee's decision came down to comfort. He enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and developed some strong relationships, and those benefits trumped the extra money tossed at him from Texas and New York.

Lee has emerged a hero of some sorts from this deal. He turned down one of the largest contracts ever offered to a pitcher to follow his heart and return to a city where he felt he was at home. 

It is this kind of attitude that Phillies fans admire, and it’s time for the Phillies’ faithful to embrace him with open arms. 


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TTN Blog: Conlin Receives Spink Award

Temple Alum and former Editor of the Temple News Bill Conlin received the J.G Taylor Spink Award from the MLB Hall of Fame for his work as a baseball writer.
The award, which was announced on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings, is awarded annually to a sportswriter for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing.”
Conlin has been writing for the Philadelphia Daily News for 45 years. He became a columnist in 1987 and has also written numerous baseball articles for the Sporting News.
Conlin graduated from Temple in 1961, where he won the Sigma Delti Chi Award as Outstanding Graduate in Journalism. He was the first Editor of the TTN so be appointed to successive terms and he won the Sword Award in 1960 for service to the university.
Conlin said that in 1960, he worked “longer and harder this year than at any time in my career, including double shifts as editor, then as composing room and darkroom worker. The hands-on experience gave me a real sense of how a newspaper is put together, the teamwork it takes and the rush of pride when you hold the finished product.”
Conlin is the second Temple sports journalist to make national news in the past week. Longtime Philly basketball writer and Temple alum Phil Jasner passed away this Friday. Coincidentally enough, the man that gave Jasner his first byline was none other than Bill Conlin.

Temple News: Ice Hockey goes 2-1 at MACHA Showcase

The ice hockey team waited until the third period of its game against Penn State on Sunday to wake up and play. But the last-minute effort wasn’t enough.
After beating St. Joseph’s on Friday and Rowan on Saturday, the Owls lost to Penn State on Sunday, 2-1, to make their record 2-1 for the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association Showcase this weekend.
The tournament is not a major event, but a scheduling opportunity for teams in the conference to play one another during a three-day span.
“It’s a disappointment,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “We expected to go 3-0. Two-and-one sounds great, but we’re at the point now where we know what games we should be winning and it’s not enough just to have a good game. We need to start getting results.”
Despite the loss, the game on Sunday was highly competitive. Penn State controlled the puck at the start of the game and consistently got the puck deep into the Temple zone, forcing the Owls’ junior goaltender Will Neifeld to make some tough saves early on.
“You can’t expect to come out here on the third day of a three-game set to beat a team that’s more talented than the first two teams that we played,” Neifeld said. “So to come out with the same effort that we applied to the first two games just won’t cut it, as you can see by the result today.”
Temple’s offense gained momentum after a Penn State penalty nine minutes, 10 seconds into the game. The Owls set up the power play well, and although they didn’t score, they seemed to find their flow offensively. However, the first period – defined by good defense and solid goaltending on both sides – ended scoreless.
“They willed this game tonight,” Roberts said. “We didn’t quite have that same level of intensity that they had.”
The second period was very similar to the first. Each team’s offense performed well but was stymied again and again by the opposing defense. Temple had a power-play opportunity early in the second where they were again successful in setting up the attack and getting shots on goal. However, the Penn State defense stonewalled the Owls and the Nitanny Lions’ goaltender made four saves to kill the penalty.
“It all comes down to heart,” senior forward Ryan Frain said. “If you don’t have heart, you’re not going to drive to the net, you’re not going to want the puck, and if you don’t want the puck, you’re not going score.”
Penn State’s offense reciprocated the fine play of its defense in the middle of the second period. The Nittany Lions moved the puck into the left slot before Penn State sophomore forward Joseph Zitarelli fired a shot on goal. Neifeld made the save, but a rebound shot deflected off a Temple defender and found the back of the net.
“I made a save, and it deflected off of our own guy,” Neifeld said. “It wasn’t just a clean shot that beat us.”
The Owls’ offense seemed to get an energy boost from the Penn State goal. They controlled the puck for much of the remainder of the period and fired nine shots on goal in the second half. There were some loose pucks in front of the net that the Owls couldn’t bury and some centering passes that missed their targets. The period ended with a one-goal Nittany Lion lead.
“I think we were pretty unlucky tonight,” Roberts said. “There were some missed opportunities.”
Penn State didn’t waste time adding to its lead in the third period. Nittany Lion sophomore defender Alan Clark capitalized on a breakaway opportunity in the second minute after he dove at the puck and deflected a pass over the middle into the net to give Penn State a two-goal lead.
“Their second goal was just a great redirect on the rush,” Neifeld said. “Sometimes you just have to give a team credit when they deserve it.”
Like the second period, the Owls seemed to find a new energy following their two-goal deficit. Their offense sped up and moved with rhythm. With 11:52 left, senior forward Steve Danno fired a centering pass from Frain past the Penn State goaltender to cut the Penn State lead to one.
“Danno took the puck around the net. We had a cycle going around the corner. So Danno flooded the middle, I fed it to him, and he buried it,” Frain said.
But the awakening of the Owls’ offense was too little, too late. Penn State’s defense continued to play well for the remainder of the third period and turned away four Temple shots on goal. The Owls pulled Neifeld with just less than two minutes left, but it proved ineffective.
“You can’t have a team that sometimes wants to play and sometimes doesn’t,” Neifeld said. “It shouldn’t take a team to score to make us motivated and want to make us have intensity and heart. That’s the key to this team – intensity and heart.
“Until we become a team that has intensity and [is] that hungry every game, whether we’re playing the best team in the league or the worst team in the league, we’re still going to continue to struggle.

PBR: Gillick Elected to Hall of Fame

PBR - Pat Gillick, the mastermind behind the Phillies 2008 World Championship season, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday by the Expansion Era committee.

Gillick was the senior vice president and general manager of the Phillies from 2006-08, and built the club into back-to-back NL East Champions (2007-08).

Gillick currently works as a senior advisor to the president/general manager within the organization, a position he has held since November of 2008.

The 2011 season will mark Gillick's 54th in professional baseball.

Gillick had won a pair of World Series titles with Toronto prior to joining Philadelphia.

"Pat Gillick's contributions to baseball are stored in the memories of fans in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On the Beat: Halladay Wins 2010 N.L. Cy Young

PBR - Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay has won the 2010 National League Cy Young Award.

Halladay, 33, lead the league in wins (21), complete games (9), and innings pitched (250.2) and finished in the top three in the NL in strikeouts (219), WHIP (1.04) and ERA (2.44).

Halladay received all 32 first-place votes. The AL Cy Young award is set to be announced Thursday.

This is Hallday's second Cy Young Award. He won the AL Cy Young award in 2003 with the Toronto Blue Jays when he had 22 wins, 204 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.25.

Temple News: Ice Hockey Vanquishes Conference-Leading UMBC

After beating the top-ranked team in its division Friday, the ice hockey club team took care of business at home Saturday.
On Friday, the Owls defeated the University of Maryland Baltimore-County, ranked No. 1 overall in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Southeastern Conference. Junior goalie Will Niefeld made 40 saves, senior forward Patrick McHugh scored two goals and the Owls won, 4-2.
“Friday night was big for us,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “We earned two important points in the standings, but more importantly, we saw what we are capable of accomplishing when we play to our potential.”
The Owls followed Friday’s game with a win over No. 11 Rider. Niefeld recorded 34 saves, McHugh scored another goal and the Owls won, 2-1.
Senior forward Patrick McHugh celebrates after scoring a goal against the Retrievers on Saturday. McHugh scored two goals in the 4-2 victory over UMBC, which was the No. 1 team in the ACHA Southeastern Conference. PAUL KLEIN TTN
Saturday’s game started in a defensive standstill. The first 10 minutes were marked with continuous play as neither team scored or committed a penalty. There was even puck distribution, and both teams recorded more than 10 shots in the first 10 minutes. A Rider interference penalty with a little more than five minutes left in the first gave Temple a power-play opportunity, and senior forward Michael Kozole netted the game’s first goal to give his team the lead.
“We’ve been struggling all season with the man advantage,” Roberts said. “We finally feel that we are making progress with it.”
Rider continued its attack for the remainder of the first period, but Niefeld made 12 saves, ending the first period with a 1-0 Temple lead.
The second period started with Rider controlling the puck and receiving the majority of scoring opportunities, forcing Niefeld to make three saves in the first five minutes. But the Broncs found themselves down one man again after a tripping penalty with 15 minutes, 27 seconds remaining. The Owls’ power play came through again, as McHugh scored his third goal of the weekend for a 2-0 lead.
“Offensively, this was not one of our best games,” Roberts said. “However, both of our goals came on the power play, which is a big change for us.”
The Owls defense also played well in the second period. Niefeld made another 14 saves, and the penalty kill eliminated three Temple infractions to maintain the Owls’ two-goal lead.
“Our defense was sound, as it has been all season,” Roberts said. “I can’t say enough about our penalty killers right now.”
The defense was also at work for the entire third period. Rider bothered Niefeld all period, consistently getting the puck deep and registering shots on goal. But penalties crippled both offenses as the two teams combined for 10 penalties in the period. A Rider goal was inevitable, and with less than 10 minutes left, the Broncs took advantage of a five-on-three and cut the Owls’ lead to one.
Rider continued the pressure in the final minutes, registering five shots on goal after the team pulled its goalie with approximately one minute left. Niefeld and the Owls’ penalty kill shut the Broncs down, allowing the Owls to win the game, 2-1.
“The past few weeks, we’ve been making things hard on ourselves by spending too much time in the penalty box, but time and time again, our PK units bail us out,” Roberts said. “If we can get our power-play unit to perform at the same level as our PK, we’ll be dangerous come playoff time, where games tend to be decided by special teams.”
The Owls are now 11-2-0-1 and have the fourth-most points in the ACHA Southeastern Conference.
“I think we made a few statements to different people this weekend – our opponents, the ranking committee, but most importantly, ourselves,” Roberts said. “The players have finally become self-aware and understand what we need to do to win the big games. There is still a lot of hockey to be played, and we haven’t accomplished anything yet. But we know what we’re capable of and are confident in our ability to execute.”

On the Beat: Phillies Hire Sandberg to Manage Triple-A Iron Pigs

PBR - The Phillies announced yesterday the hiring of Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg to manage their Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

Sandberg, 51, was drafted by the Phillies in 1978 and played in the minor leagues before being used as a throw-in for the 1982 trade that sent Sandberg and Larry Bowa to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Ivan DeJesus. The trade is widely considered one of the worst in the history of the franchise, as DeJesus was a bust and Sandberg went on to hit 282 home runs for the Cubs en route to his hall of fame career.

"Ryne impressed us in so many ways, but as we told him at the start of the interviewing process, we weren't going to dwell on his Hall of Fame status," Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar said. "We're here to hire the best Triple A manager and the best player development person for the Philadelphia Phillies, and obviously he is that."

Sandberg was named the 2010 Pacific Coast League manager of the year after leading the Iowa Cubs to a share of the North Division title in his first season as a Triple-A manager.

"In a lot of ways, I feel like a young kid again with this opportunity," Sandberg said. "I couldn't be happier about the situation."

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the Beat: Phillies Sign Two Year Contract with Contreras

PBR - The Phillies have signed a 2 year, $5 million contract with right-handed relief pitcher Jose Contreras.

Contreras, 38, pitched in 67 games for the Phillies last year, posting a 3.34 ERA and striking out 57.

“Jose was as consistent a reliever as we had last year,” Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. “We were pleasantly surprised by his durability since it was his first full year in a relief role. Jose has fit in extremely well in our clubhouse and he is a quality, back-end of the bullpen pitcher who showed versatility in a variety of roles in 2010. We’re pleased to have him on board for the next couple of years.”
Contreras and fellow Phillies' right-hander Chad Durbin are both free agents this offseason and were the most often used pitchers in the bullpen last year.

With the loss of J.C. Romero, expect the Phils to pursue a veteran left-handed arm on the market as well. Blue Jays left-hander Scott Downs is the biggest name on the market, however the Phils are reportedly already looking at Mets' lefty Hisanori Takahashi.

On the Beat: Temple Baseball Signs Five to Letters of Intent

PBR - Temple baseball head coach Rob Valli announced the signing of five student athletes, RHP Adam Dian, OF Kevin Gilbert, SS Kyle McCrossen, and twin brother starting pitchers Eric and Patrick Peterson, to National Letters of Intent.

Dian (6'3, 210) went 4-2 with 62 strikeouts in his junior season at the Vincentian Academy in Pittsburgh, PA and was named to the 2010 All-State tournament team.

Gilbert (6'1, 185) is a corner outfielder from Hunterdon Central High School in New Jersey. He was named second team all-West Jersey as a sophomore and first team all-conference as a junior.

McCrossen (5'9, 180) is left-handed hitting shortstop from Archbishop Wood. He is a three-time first team all-catholic, all-county, and all-city selection.

The Peterson brothers are entering their senior years at the Charter School of Wilmington. Eric (6'4, 180) is a right-handed pitcher who tied a Delaware state record with 20 strikeouts in a seven-inning game last year. Patrick (6'3, 190) is a left-handed pitcher who went 5-1 as a junior to go along with a 2.32 ERA. He was named as a second team all-conference player in Delaware.

"We are extremely excited about our recruiting class," Valli said. "All five student-athletes display tremendous character and work ethic to go along with their athletic accomplishments. "

The five players will begin their careers at Temple at the start of the 2012 season. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is This the Year?

The recent history of the Eagles success (or lack thereof) is impressive or depressing, depending on who you are and how you look at it. In the 2000's decade, the Eagles made the playoffs seven times, including five NFC Championship game appearances and a Super Bowl loss. This may qualify as an impressive resume to any team in any city in the entire country. But not the Eagles. Not in Philadelphia.
The Eagles were bashed by the local media, and Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid specifically received scorn for a lack of leadership and inability to perform under pressure. Yet, through it all, each new season provided a new opportunity for hope. Even during the Eagles' steak of three consecutive NFC Championship games losses combined with a Super Bowl meltdown, Eagles fans consistently began each season thinking, "This is the year."
Last year, the Eagles made the playoffs as a Wild Card team for the first time since 2000 and were handed one of the worst losses in franchise postseason history, a 34-14 blowout, at the hands of arch-rivals Dallas Cowboys.
As a result, the Eagles seemed to take on a new identity. They got rid of McNabb and handed the ball to their 2007 2nd round draft pick, Kevin Kolb. They seemed to be in re-building mode coming into this season and postseason expectations were low. Most people predicted the Eagles to win under ten games this year and miss the playoffs.
Most people, however, failed to take into account the play of Michael Vick.

When Clay Matthews drove Kevin Kolb's head hard into the ground in week one against the Packers, it may have been the best thing to ever happen to the Eagles. Vick took over at quarterback, and after a brief three week stint in which he was sidelined with a ribs injury, he has lead the Eagles to a 3-0 record in which he has passed for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with the best passer rating in the NFL (105.3). 
It is clear that Vick is playing the best quarterback of his career. He has combined his always threatening ground game with an unprecedented sharpness in his passes. He has developed an impressive resume with Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in just three games started and has not thrown an interception all season.
With such a formidable assortment of weapons being led by one of the most talented players in the history of the game; it leads me to wonder...why not this year?
The Eagles are 5-3 and are in second place in the NFC East. They have already overcome the more difficult half of their schedule and their destiny is in their own hands as five of their final eight games are against NFC East opponents.
They have the most dynamic offense in the league and their defense demonstrated in the week nine win against the Colts that they can play with anyone. 
It is clear that fate has played a large role in the Eagles' success. Seemingly, the Eagles were never meant to win a Super Bowl under Donovan McNabb. Maybe their destiny was to bring in a man who dealt with problems in his past and was looking for someone to reach out to for a second chance.
The Eagles have given Vick that chance, and the fact that the stakes are so high for him, and are at the level always applied by Eagles' fans, might just mean that he was meant to come here and find his redemption, and in doing so, redeem an entire city's brutal past. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ice Hockey Overcomes Third Period Deficit to beat St. Joseph's Hawks

In a game filled with 21 penalties, heavy physical play and bad blood, the ice hockey team pulled out a win Saturday.
Senior forward Ryan Frain scored two goals, junior goalie Will Neifeld made nearly 40 saves and the Owls rallied to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the third period to beat St. Joseph’s, 3-2.
“This was a huge statement for us,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges in the early portion of the season as far as our players having the ability to play 60 minutes and stay focused and be a mature team. I think they made a huge statement to themselves tonight, showing what they’re able to accomplish when they have mental toughness.”

The Owls lacked mental toughness in the first two periods. Despite dominating puck control early on and registering 14 shots on goal in the first period, Temple’s offense was consistently crippled by penalties. The Owls had to kill four penalties in the first 20 minutes, and the first period ended scoreless.
“A lot of it had to do with the dumb penalties we were taking,” Frain said. “We weren’t really playing smart hockey.”
The second period saw a shift of momentum toward the St. Joe’s side. A superior St. Joe’s checking game led to almost total control of the puck. Temple committed seven penalties, and St. Joe’s registered 23 shots on goal. But the Owls’ penalty kill, along with Niefeld’s play bailed them out. The game remained scoreless after the second period.
“Our defense was unbelievable on the [penalty kill],” senior forward and team captain Jordan Lawrence said. “[Niefeld] played unbelievable. He really saved us in the first two periods. We broke down a lot with penalties. It was a great team effort in the first two periods defensively.”
In addition to the penalties, Temple’s offense struggled mightily in the second period. The Owls registered only three shots on goal for the entire period and failed to capitalize on their lone power-play opportunity.
“We weren’t taking any shots or generating any offense,” Frain said. “Penalties killed us the first two periods. We were playing awful.”
“We weren’t executing,” Roberts added. “It was beyond the penalties. We weren’t playing our style of hockey. The penalties were frustrating, but the bigger concern we had coming into the locker room after two periods was the fact that we weren’t playing our game.”
It was a physical game for the first two periods. There was a scuffle involving two Temple players and two St. Joe’s players after a Hawks player crosschecked Lawrence from behind after play had stopped. There were four offsetting roughing penalties distributed between the two teams.
“It’s pretty fun. A lot of guys in the locker room after the first period were saying this was the most fun they’ve had,” Lawrence said. “It gets cheap sometimes, but that’s part of the game. You just deal with it.”
“Temple and St. Joe’s has been a rivalry for as long as we’ve played,” Roberts added. “It’s one of those situations where, when you get in the rink with them, no matter what the standings are or how your seasons are going, it’s always going to a battle. It’s always going to be a close game. It’s one that the locker room gets up for. It’s pretty exciting.”
Temple came out in the third period looking like a new team. The Owls’ offense immediately set up a scoring chance, and after just 55 seconds, Frain put back his own rebound to tie the score.
“I think the light kind of went on in the locker room,” Roberts said. “We just had to get back to playing our style of game and not get caught up in their antics.”
“That first goal when we came out in the first minute of the third really helped us out,” Lawrence said. “We took off from there.”
Temple continued to control the puck and set up the offense early in the third. After two minutes and 40 seconds, senior forward George Rutter scored a rebound goal off sophomore forward Chris Hacken’s shot to give the Owls the lead.
“All four lines contributed,” Frain said. “We got the puck in deep. We generated offense. We got a couple goals. They weren’t able to touch us down there.”
Frain added his second goal of the game on a power play with 8:43 left to give the Owls a 3-1 lead. St. Joe’s scored a power play goal with 4:04 left to make it interesting, but Neifeld shut the Hawks down for the final four minutes. The Owls won the game, 3-2.
The Owls won six of their last eight games and are 8-2-0-1 on the season and 3-1 in the Mid-Atlantic College Hockey Association Northern conference. A win against the in-conference rival provided a momentum boost for the team.
“Next weekend we play UMBC, who’s No. 1 in the region and arguably one of the top teams in the country,” Roberts said. “It’s a great stepping stone going into next week.”